# Friday Fun: Bible code? Naw, probably not, but secret codes in written material are nothing new

November 22, 2013 | Posted by News under Culture, Mathematics, News |

Easy Englit for STEM grads:

Recently, the notion of a secret code in the Bible came up in passing. It was certainly a researchable idea. It is possible to code a surprising amount of information in a book, pamphlet, or note (which already features specified complexity) by specifying which elements will also be part of the secondary meaning.

A really simple way of doing that is to write a comprehensible poem where the first or any specified letter of each line spells out a word or name in order or scrambled (acrostic poem).

Here’s one, first letter, each line, written for a child.

Obviously if anyone not a child suspected there was a hidden message in your work, *and * the situation was serious, you’d have to be cleverer than that.

For more of a challenge, here are some unsolved codes and ciphers, including one Feynman couldn’t crack.

For sleepless nights: unbroken Dorabella cipher

Voynich (uncracked) and Copiale (cracked) ciphers

Sleep lite.

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Speaking of Bible codes, a few weeks ago, someone posted a link to an author who has found the number pi encoded in Gen. 1:1, and the natural logarithm base e encoded in John 1:1, each to 4 significant digits. This seemed ripe for analysis, so I put a few minutes of effort into it. (I lost the original link, but the reader can google “bible code pi e” and find a video on youtube that explains it.)

The target numbers are uncovered by first numbering the letters of the Hebrew and Greek alphabets in a particular way. Then these values are combined as follows to yield pi and e:

As you’ll see, the details of how that is done are not relevant to the analysis. Nor is the fact that a verse is not necessarily a sentence, nor the fact that verse designations are not present in the original manuscripts, etc.

At first glance, it might seem like too much of a coincidence to find pi and e by such a method, but consider that someone positively disposed to the finding would probably accept other “special” numbers besides pi and e. 777.0, 666.0, 3.000, 1.000, 12.00 might also seem like special “Biblical” numbers, and be acceptable here. So perhaps there are (conservatively) 4 such special numbers. If we require that they be correct to 4 digits each, then there is a 1 in 10^8 chance of hitting two such numbers by chance. So how many rolls of the dice do we have available to us?

If we only allow for special numbers to appear in first verses, there are 66 * 65 possible arrangements.

Then, how many different computations can we envision that are simpler or as simple as the one used by the author? I can see two reasonable means of assigning numbers to the Hebrew and Greek alphabets: the method used by the author, and simple, sequential numbering: 1, 2, 3,… If we combine letters into words, words into sentences, and also make use of letter and word counts, that gives us 4 operands to work with. Given that the author uses addition, multiplication and division, it seems reasonable that we accept the following as sufficiently simple operations: +, *, -, /, concatenation of digits. That’s 5 operations. Now, multiplying all this out tells us that there are around 2 * 10^9 possible combinations of operations that would seem reasonable to someone who buys into the author’s original calculation.

One does not need any further analysis to conclude that finding pi and e in the first two verses of two books of the Bible is not an astronomically unlikely occurrence. While I regard the Bible as accurate history, and gladly accept its message, this particular bit of evidence is not as valuable as its proponent thinks.